Momentum Grows For Obama As His Approval Rating Reaches 51%

A new National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll has found that the growing economy is bring the Obama coalition home as the president’s job approval rating has hit 51%.

Beneath the Allstate/National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll’s finding that President Obama’s job approval rating has reached 51% is evidence that the coalition of voters that powered the president to victory in 2008 is coming home to him again in 2012. Obama’s approval ratings with Independents (49% in 2012 versus 52% in 2008), non-whites (76% in 2012 versus 80% in 2008), college educated white women (49% in 2012 versus 52% in 2008), and non-college educated white women (39% in 2012 versus 41% in 2008) are almost back to the levels that they were at on Election Day 2008. Obama’s approval rating is now higher in 2012 among Hispanics (72%) and college educated white men (44%) than it was in 2008.

Obama still continues to struggle with white male voters, but his gains among Hispanics, Independents, women and non-whites are enough to push his job approval ratings higher. The president trailed the generic and somewhat meaningless Obama versus an anonymous opponent question, 44%-49%. (When are pollsters going to stop asking this question? It is now clear who the president’s potential opponents will be in November.) However, the results of this question do illustrate the fact that the Republican Party would be better off running nobody instead of the candidates they have.

Two underlying factors are working in Obama’s favor as he officially begins his campaign for reelection. Americans are optimistic about the economy. Sixty percent of Americans expected the economy to improve over the next year. Only 33% of those polled, a.k.a. the Republican base expected an economic downturn.

The other factor powering Obama is that most Americans believe that President Obama has the country going in the right direction. While only 11% believed that Obama’s policies have made the country significantly better off, 45% felt that the president’s policies have not yielded major benefits, but he is moving the country in the right direction. The Republican base revealed itself again as 36% believed the country was significantly worse off under Obama.

No matter who the Republican nominee is, they are going to have to argue that President Obama’s policies have made the economy worse and that the only way the economy will improve is if the country changes presidents. The problem is that most Americans aren’t likely to be very receptive to either of those arguments. Republicans are going to have to campaign pessimistically, when Americans are getting more optimistic. The fact that President Obama remains personally popular, while the Republican Party does not, makes the challenge for the GOP even taller.

It is a simple equation. If optimism continues to grow over the course of 2012, so will President Obama’s chances for reelection. One of the most interesting and consistent elements of polling about the president is that throughout all the difficulties of his first term, most voters still identify him with optimism and hope. The president has been careful to maintain a message of optimism since he took office, and it will allow him to run for reelection as an incumbent with an optimistic message.

Mitt Romney’s endlessly negative campaign may get him the Republican nomination, and he may be able to keep the election close against Obama with a negative onslaught, but the American people aren’t in a negative place right now.

People are feeling better about the economy and the future. Most importantly for the president, the Obama coalition is coming home.


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